Michael Gove ‘physically ripped up’ civil service report on possible Brexit customs plan

Environment secretary apparently ripped up page of document but ‘couldn't manage more’

Photo: PA

Michael Gove physically ripped up Theresa May’s preferred customs plan with the European Union, it has been reported.

The Sun reports that the environment secretary tore a document outlining the Prime Minister’s customs partnership proposal in half during a Cabinet working group on Wednesday last week.

Ministers have been thrashing out a solution to the UK’s future customs arrangement ahead of a crunch summit at Chequers to finally come to an agreement on the Britain’s future relationship with Brussels.


According to Sun columnist James Forsyth a summary document of the Cabinet working group’s discussions downplayed his opposition to the customs partnership and suggested it had his backing.

Gove then apparently tore up the document, which had been prepared by civil servants, in front of officials “in a flash of anger”. The customs partnership proposal would see the UK collect tariffs on the EU's behalf.

However, subsequent reports indicated that Gove in fact only ripped up one page of the report and “couldn't manage more”.

Update on Michael Gove's outburst - am told he ripped up *one page* of a report on the new customs partnership - "he couldn't manage more", says my unimpressed source.

— Heather Stewart (@GuardianHeather) July 1, 2018

Two groups of Cabinet ministers are studying the possible customs options following Brexit.

The UK-EU customs partnership option – which the group including Gove is examining – would see the UK collecting tariffs for Brussels, and could be cost neutral for firms, HMRC permanent secretary Jon Thompson said, but take five years to set up.

The other known options include a so-called ‘maximum facilitation’ proposal, which utilizes technology not yet in existence, although Thompson has said this could take three years to set up and cost firms more than £350m per week.

It comes as CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome reported that ministers will not be allowed to leave next week’s Chequers meeting without coming to an agreement on Brexit.

PoliticsHome understands that the crunch get-together will begin at 10.30am next Friday – and could still be going on into the early hours of Saturday morning.

However, because there are not enough beds at the Prime Minister's official residence, there is no prospect of them being able to sleep during their lengthy deliberations.

One Downing Street source said: "Pyjamas will not be required – it will be normal business attire."

A No 10 insider said it was "possible" the meeting could go overnight, but another source insisted that did not mean those attending will be allowed to go to sleep.

"They need to agree because it needs agreeing," the source said. "If it runs late into the night they'll have to keep talking because there aren't enough beds."

One Cabinet member told PoliticsHome hopes were not high that any agreement will be reached.

They said: "There can only be two outcomes – another fudge or a bust-up."

Deep splits still remain between Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and David Davis, and pro-EU ministers including Philip Hammond and Greg Clark on the UK's future customs arrangements with the block.

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